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Satozaki's HR in 11th softens blow for Marines

by Jim Allen (May 31, 2010)

The Chiba Lotte Marines won the battle on Sunday, although it is too early to tell if they can win a war of attrition.

Tomoya Satozaki's 11th-inning sayonara homer lifted the Marines to a 1-0 interleague victory over the Yokohama BayStars, but the Pacific League club's casualty list continued to grow.

Keisuke Hayasaka, filling in for injured center fielder Takashi Ogino, was himself stretchered off the field with a left knee injury in the third inning of a classic pitchers' duel before 25,794 at Chiba Marine Stadium.

Despite missing Ogino, out for two months, and three starting pitchers, the Marines improved to a season-best 12 games above .500 and have won all six of their interleague games played in Chiba.

"I don't know, maybe it's the water," Satozaki said when asked about the team's recent surge at home.

"We are 12 games in the black, but I think if it weren't for me holding the team back, that number would be 20 instead of 12.

"It may have looked like I was doing something, but I haven't hit much above .200. Those numbers say I haven't."

There was no mistaking his contribution on Sunday, however. In addition to his one out home run in the 11th off BayStars closer Shun Yamaguchi (1-5), he threw out two runners trying to steal.

Shigeru Kaga, the BayStars' second-round draft pick last autumn, had his best game yet, going eight innings in a tight duel with Shunsuke Watanabe, who worked nine for Lotte.

Kaga allowed four singles and no walks in eight innings. The side-armer with the high leg kick also struck out four.

"I was able to pitch my kind of game and go inside a lot," Kaga said. "Because Watanabe throws from the side like me, I watched him carefully while he pitched. I was very efficient today."

Watanabe, who lasted just four innings in his last start on May 24, had his best game of the year as well.

"His late movement was good, his control was good, I think he was close to perfect," Marines manager Norifumi Nishimura said. "When he had runners on base, he raised it to another level."

Watanabe allowed four singles and struck out three while allowing no walks and giving Satozaki a chance to put the brakes on the BayStars' speedsters who did get on base.

"We have been troubled by that all season, but the pitchers' work is paying off," Satozaki said. "Opponents are no longer getting the jumps they had been and we have things under control."

BayStars middle man Shigeki Ushida pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, but Marines closer Hiroyuki Kobayashi then retired the visitors in the top of the 10th.

Yasuhiko Yabuta (1-1) survived a tough 30-pitch 11th inning to pick up his first win since returning to Lotte after a two-year stint with the Kansas City Royals.

"We have so many injuries right now," Yabuta said. "We just have to stick out our chests and get it done for the sake of the team."

In other games, Takahiro Arai's 11th-inning sacrifice fly plated the decisive run as the Hanshin Tigers beat the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 3-2 to complete a two-game sweep at Sapporo Dome.

Eichi Koyano homered off Tigers closer Kyuji Fujikawa in the ninth to send the game to extra innings.

In Fukuoka, Munenori Kawasaki drove in three runs in the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks' 6-5, 11-inning win over the Chunichi Dragons.

Kawasaki had tied the game with a two-run single in the sixth.

In Sendai, Masahiro Tanaka (7-3) scattered 12 singles over the distance as the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles beat the Hiroshima Carp 4-2.

Tanaka struck out four and walked two.

In Kobe, lefty Shogo Yamamoto (4-2) threw 6-2/3 scoreless innings to outduel Yoshinori Sato (1-5) in the Orix Buffaloes' 3-1 win over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.

The game between the Yomiuri Giants and Seibu Lions at Seibu Dome was played later in the evening.


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